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Oligocene–Miocene northward growth of the Tibetan Plateau: Insights from intermontane basins in the West Qinling Belt, NW China

April 28, 2023

Growth of the Tibetan Plateau, Earth’s broadest and highest elevation collisional system, shapes orographic barriers, reorganizes drainage networks, and influences surface erosion and sediment delivery, whose changes in space and provenance feed back to intracontinental tectonic processes. Studies of interior basins within the northern Tibetan Plateau provide new sediment accumulation, provenance, paleodrainage, and deformation timing data that enable a reconstruction of the far-field tectono-geomorphic evolution of the rising Tibetan Plateau. Along the northern plateau margin, topographic growth in the West Qinling Belt is inferred to have initiated in the Eocene, nearly coeval with the India-Asia collision, as well as in the late Miocene. However, geological knowledge about the intervening period remains at present enigmatic, and the kinematics and dynamics are uncertain. This study presents a multidisciplinary data set from the intermontane Anhua-Huicheng Basin (AHB; Gansu Province, China) to fill this gap. Magnetostratigraphic dating, regional mapping, and sedimentological analysis imply that contractional deformation and thrust-top basin systems formed within the West Qinling Belt in the Oligocene (not later than ca. 24 Ma). A combination of observations including paleocurrent changes, detrital zircon U-Pb age variations, and appearance of growth strata along the Anhua-Huicheng Basin reveal the rapid uplift of the West Qinling Belt at ca. 15 Ma. Sedimentation in the intermontane basins ended after the late Miocene (ca. 8 Ma), when the region experienced intrabasinal deformation, uplift, and erosion with the establishment of an external drainage system. Since the late Miocene, the growth of the West Qinling Belt reached a climax with the lack of substantial contractional deformation in Cenozoic sequences heralding the onset of the modern kinematic regime and attainment of high elevation. Observed transitions in the tectonostratigraphy and paleodrainage define different phases of deformation and plateau-wide shifts in stress reorganization, which led to the northward growth and later lateral expansion of the Tibetan Plateau.

Publication Year 2024
Title Oligocene–Miocene northward growth of the Tibetan Plateau: Insights from intermontane basins in the West Qinling Belt, NW China
DOI 10.1130/B36722.1
Authors Yi-Peng Zhang, Wei-Tao Wang, Richard O. Lease, Renjie Zhou, Yue-Jun Wang, Yong-Gang Yan, Ying Wang, Wen-Jun Zheng, Bing-Xu Liu, Zhi-Gang Li, Hao Liang, Ge-Ge Hui, Chuang Sun, Qing-Ying Tian, Bin-Bin Xu, Pei-Zhen Zhang
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title GSA Bulletin
Index ID 70243167
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Geology Minerals